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The Winning Formula How we got our company to be recognized as one of the fastest growing agencies in the world

By Tom Otton

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Chaotic, exciting, relentless; all words to describe an intense journey for Create Media Group over the past three years. We have grown our digital agency from 20 to 75 people, with an average annual growth rate of +65%, all without the comforts of financing, and we recently got recognized by Adweek as one of the 100 fastest growing agencies in the world! There are many ways to drive growth- it's rarely linear, and often takes years of groundwork to get that "formula" right.

Tech companies often buck that trend, but, in a service-based business, it takes time, thousands of decisions, and patience. You'd think that when a business is achieving growth like this, the internal focus must be very much on sales targets, and a relentless drive for more.

Well, actually, no. This is not where our focus has been, we have done things a little differently, and it's worked out. Our formula is likely something you've heard before, but talking about it, and actually implementing it are two very different things.

Here are some factors that have worked for us at Create Media Group:

1. Build a safe environment When you are prepared to drop a AED500,000 client because of the way they interact with your team, then you are going in the right direction. A relentless focus on fostering an inclusive culture so strong and safe that the team only need to concentrate on what they are good at will do wonders to what a business can achieve. Cut the politics, the gossip, and whenever you have the opportunity to do the right thing, do the right thing.

2. Lose the ego and insecurities Many negative behaviors in the workplace are due to people bringing insecurities to work, and that starts with management. The management style sets the tone for the rest of the business, what is valued internally, and what is not. If the senior team are constantly trying to outdo each other to receive recognition, you can bet that will filter down. So will not having an ego, listening to every opinion, and collectively backing each other up. Again, so much more can be achieved if everyone is working together towards a common goal, and not in competition with each other. We all have our own skillsets.

Related: Curating Your Online Presence: How To Use The Power Of Snapchat For Personal Branding

3. Learn to watch and listen The market is slow? That is your opportunity. When we are seeing disruption across industries in the way we are now, there is a real chance for growth, but you need to watch and listen. By listen, I mean listen at the coalface, not in reports and papers. Get in front of your clients, and ask them where their pain points are, and what do they need. Repeat, repeat, repeat. This isn't rocket science, but if you get it right, you can build a rocket.

4. Be flexible, be fast More established businesses, the big advertising agencies as a prime example, are structured to deliver a certain set of services in a certain way, and they're often very good at that. What they are not good at is change, and the speed that is required in a disrupted market. As an SME, you need to stay nimble, and reduce bureaucracy at every touchpoint. As you grow, it will creep in, half of it will be just for the sake of it. Remember what is important, make decisions quickly, and as Richard Branson says: "Always protect the downside." After all, you want this to be a long game, not a quick one.

Related: Playing to Win: Five Traits Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Athletes

Tom Otton

Founder and Managing Director, Create Media Group

As the Managing Director and founder of digital communications agency Create Media Group, Tom Otton has been at the forefront of the growth in the digital space in the UAE in recent years. Taking the company from a startup to employing a team of 17 with an average growth in turnover of 50% year on year for the past three years. The company works with brands such as Red Bull, Jaguar Land Rover, Standard Chartered Bank, Flash Entertainment, and both Abu Dhabi and Dubai Governments.

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